I thought I would share that for me, this was one of those happy moments in the life of a sci-fi writer where I said, “I thought about that!” Of course, I am by no means the first sci-fi writer to think of the use of nuclear rockets, especially when the tech was new. But as a solution for the immediate problem of getting deeper into the solar system, and Mars in particular, I considered using vintage nuclear rocket tech as the logical solution for the extended time in space problem; and also for minimizing space radiation exposure. This is part of the backstory to The Cloud. So I was very excited to see this article.
Now I’ll go one step further, and I will point out that if this technology is successful, it could finally be the solution to nuclear waste disposal. The reason why we do not just put all the nuclear waste on Earth in a rocket and blast it off into the sun (which is a natural high-test fusion reactor, in case you are not a science nerd type and you are reading this) is because we tried that and it blew up in high atmosphere, providing quite a light show in the magnetosphere for a few days, I understand. But if we can stabilize this technology enough to make it safe for human transport (well, as safe as astronauting gets, anyway) then I imagine it could be stabilized enough to provide a safe(ish) container to transport nuclear waste in. Just sayin’.
Dangerous radiation. Overstuffed pantries. Cabin fever. NASA could sidestep many of the impediments to a Mars mission if they could just get there faster. But sluggish chemical rockets aren’t cutting it — and to find what comes next, one group of engineers is rebooting research into an engine last fired in 1972.
The energy liberated by burning chemical fuel brought astronauts to the moon, but that rocket science makes for a long trip to Mars. And although search for a fission-based shortcut dates back to the 1950s, such engines have never flown. In August, NASA boosted those efforts when the agency announced an $18.8-million-dollar contract with nuclear company BWXT to design fuel and a reactor suitable for nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), a rocket technology that could jumpstart a new era of space exploration.
Read the full article at Space.com.